As the harbinger of the yearly summer festival season, Coachella is, to stretch an analogy, the prom queen. As pretty as a picture, viewed often as too rich for its own good and maybe a little vapid, it’s undeniably popular and more likely than not to deliver. If we’re continuing that, then Bonnaroo is the hippie girl that made prom court just by being so damn earnest and nice. Yeah, maybe she doesn’t shower or shave, but it doesn’t matter because when you hang out with her, it’s just fun. Originally a jam band festival, Bonnaroo still harkens to its roots– Phish is a headliner, people– but pulls from all corners of the high school lunch room, so the class clowns sit at the comedy tent, the alt kids debate which Radiohead album is the best, and the hip-hop kids swap Danny Brown and Kendrick Lamar trading cards. In anticipation of the festival, we’re hooking you up with a list of the acts that represent the breadth of Bonnaroo’s scope.
Well duh. The band, a year removed from their positively received but kind of ignored King of Limbs record, is taking 2012 to go on one of their largest tours of recent memory, and Bonnaroo is one of their first stops. Radiohead has always had a penchant for delivering during festival sets, augmenting their otherworldly catalog with light shows and killer stage presence. They’ve added a second drummer– long time session drummer Clive Dreamer— to their live lineup to more accurately render the complex rhythms of their latest material, adding a more visceral aspect to the often cerebral band.
Look, Phish is not a band you really listen to on record unless you’re a capital letters Phish Phan. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the opportunity to see them live whenever they’re near you. Not only are their long-form noodle sessions just a cubic fuckton of fun, the crowds are always among the most positive you could ask for in packed-population settings like the festivals or stadiums that the band is wont to play. Every Phish show is a community unto itself, as fun for the environment as it is the entertainment.
The Beach Boys
While it won’t be the same thing as seeing them circa Pet Sounds or anything, catching the reunited Beach Boys lineup is a bucket list sort of event. Reunion tours at this stage of careers tend to be nothing-but-the-hits sort of affairs, and there are sure to be a multitude of sweaty festival goers losing themselves attempting to hit the highest harmony notes of everything from “Little Deuce Coupe” to “God Only Knows.”
Skrillex is the blogosphere’s Contentious Dude of the Moment (Move over, Justin Vernon. You are so February), but one thing that everyone has sort of accepted is that catching his overblown dub step stylings in person is a straight up event. The heavy abundance of wubs, dubs and drops are sure to blow the hair back of anyone within a certain proximity of the speakers, and the sheer energy of Skrillex’s supporters will be enough to get anyone carried away. In that way, Skrillex is kind of similar to Phish, just with more drops.
One of the latest additions to the Bonnaroo lineup was country icon Kenny Rogers, a move that engendered a ton of WTF reactions even as it made a weird sort of sense, given the wildly eclectic nature of Bonnaroo. Aside from “The Gambler,” it’s hard to know if Rogers will sing any songs that would cause a roar of recognition from the Bonnaroo crowd, but if nothing else Rogers’ stage presence will be that of a seasoned professional performer, and plus dude’s beard will be immaculate.
Rap oddball Danny Brown is indicative of the slant of the hip-hop acts that will populate Bonnaroo this year, as he joins Kendrick Lamar, Yelawolf, Childish Gambino, Das Racist and others that take a slightly fractured approach to traditional rap. In fact, the only “traditional” rapper in the Bonnaroo lineup is Ludacris. Brown is probably the most talented of the whole group, and his aggressive, tenor that barks about pussies that smell like Doritoes is sure to win over the summer crowd.
One aspect that sets Bonnaroo apart from a wealth of over summer festivals is their comedy tent, which has brought together a solid list of high-profile acts over the years. This year the headliner of that group is Aziz Ansari, who has gone from Raaaaaaaandy’s overbearing obnoxiousness to a more cynical, cutting style of humor. This is part of Ansari’s first tour after releasing his stand-up special Dangerously Delicious. The Buried Alive tour has seen Ansari road testing brand new material for the past month, and it’ll be interesting to see what direction his new jokes take.
That, of course, is just a small sampling of the myriad different styles that will be populating the Bonnaroo grounds this June. Other artists we’ll be sure to check out include Bad Brains, tUnE-yArDs, Feist, EMA, St. Vincent, Bon Iver, Danzig, The Black Lip, Das Racist, Kurt Vile, Battles, and more. It’s that smorgasbord of buffet-style musical variety that has made Bonnaroo such a singular experience, and why we look forward to seeing you there.